Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Implementing Reflective Practice as an Integral Component of Prof.pdf (1.88 MB)

Implementing Reflective Practice as an Integral Component of Professional Supervision within a Social Work Department

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posted on 2019-11-22, 18:19 authored by Aisling Coffey

Aim: The project aimed to implement reflective practice as an integral component of professional supervision within a social work department.

Rationale: Social work is a complex and contested profession, operating in uncertain and unpredictable contexts, requiring careful professional judgements that can have profound impact on service-users. A number of high-profile inquiries have found deficits within the profession to critically analyse practice and manage complexity. These reports place key emphasis on the need for reflective practice within supervision as a critical means of providing safe, high quality services. However there is evidence that social workers are not getting the opportunity to reflect on practice and that supervision has become overly managerial and prescriptive. As a practicing social worker, the writer was aware of the complexity within which the profession operates and wished to support and empower colleagues in complex professional decision-making to enhance safe, high quality social work services. The writer was conscious of trends toward the predominance of managerialism within supervision and sought to rebalance the process to incorporate critical reflection as an integral component. The writer was also aware that such an initiative was aligned with agency policy, corporate goals and regulatory requirements.

Change Process: Project implementation was guided by the HSE Change Model and involved an educational presentation on CORU SWRB “Standard and Requirements for CPD”, a staff survey on learning needs relating to reflective practice, a workshop on reflective practice within supervision and the development of a prompting and recording tool to support engagement in reflective practice on a monthly basis within supervision.

Evaluation & Results: Project evaluation involved regular consultation with the social work departmental team, documentation review and survey feedback. From a quantitative perspective, 80% of team members engaged in and recorded reflective practice on a monthly basis within supervision. Qualitative feedback highlights the perception of team members that the project has enhanced their professional decision-making capacity, supported them to meet requirements of registration, re-established supervision as a forum to analyse complexity and enhanced knowledge of reflective practice.

Conclusion: By developing the capacity of social workers to engage in reflective practice within supervision, this project supports the delivery of safe, high quality services and empowers social workers to meet requirements of statutory registration, comply with agency supervision guidelines and support the achievement of corporate goals.


First Supervisor

Ms Orla O'Brien


A Dissertation Submitted in part fulfilment of the degree of MSc in Leadership, Institute of Leadership, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland 2016

Published Citation

Coffey A. Implementing Reflective Practice as an Integral Component of Professional Supervision within a Social Work Department [MSc Thesis]. Dublin: Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland; 2016.

Degree Name

  • MSc Leadership

Date of award


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